Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sparrow Hill Road - Seanan McGuire

Sparrow Hill Road
Seanan McGuire
Rose Marshall was sweet sixteen in the summer of 1952.  She’s still sweet sixteen today, or looks it.  That’s because all those years ago, Rose was forced off Sparrow Hill Road.  She and her truck plummeted off the side and burned.  She woke up, in the prom dress that represented months upon months of saving pennies, on the side of the road.  Her boyfriend and prom date, Gary, found her.  They never made it to the prom.  They drove all night, he took her home, and she vanished.  She’s known as a phantom hitchhiker, the phantom prom date, a familiar figure in ghost stories told around campfires and at slumber parties.

Rose still walks the ghost roads, occasionally rising into the daylight to hitch a ride.  She’s a benign ghost, often trying to save a driver from a fatal accident; or maybe just make the driver’s passing a little easier.  She’ll continue to walk the roads until the end of time, or until she chooses to take that last exit that exists on all roads.  She can’t stop.  She’s still being chased by the man who killed her.  Bobby Cross wanted immortality and eternal youth and he was quite willing to destroy innocent souls to get it.  Rose got away from him that night in 1952, but he’s still coming for her, and most likely always will be.

As Rose tells us her story, she introduces the world she inhabits now.  There’s one America where the living exist.  Beneath that, or to the side of it, or on different planes, are an infinite number of shadow worlds called twilights.  Each layer operates on its own, but they’re all bound by rules.  Learning the rules takes a lot of time and not a few mistakes.  There are diners and way stations along each highway, offering various things to various travelers.  Each road is a separate entity.  And there are lots of other beings who dwell in the twilights and down into the midnight where things are very dark. 
The richly-imagined story is separated into several sections, telling some of Rose’s many stories.  Her too-short life; the time she met a great-niece; the time she followed a band of ghost hunters; some of the drivers who offered her a ride.  Each person she encounters has a history and a motive, giving them a sense of reality, even in the shadows.  It’s maybe ironic that even the ghosts are three dimensional here.  Rose is as real as any of them, with emotions and memories and longings that make her completely human.  As Rose says, no one knows exactly where the end of the road is.  If this is the end of her road, I bid her a fond farewell, still hoping we might meet again somewhere down the highway.
Rating: 9
May 2014
ISBN# 978-0-7564-0961-6  (trade paperback)


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